Family Support Panel focuses on connecting people, living Air Force life

by Brooke Brzozowske
U.S. Air Force

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. (AFNS) -- Air Force subject matter experts on total force family support met during the 2017 Air Force Association Air, Space and Cyber Conference, Sep. 18, 2017.

According to the panel, life in the Air Force can present unique challenges, but Airmen must remain committed to each other.

“Every Airman is unique, and every family member is unique,” said Daniel Sitterly, acting assistant secretary of the Air Force for Manpower and Reserve Affairs. “Every military installation and base is like a handmade wooden shoe – they are all different. If we don’t find the perfect fit for you and your families’ needs, then all we’ll ever address are the blisters on our heels.”

Some resources are uniquely tailored to Airmen and families including Military OneSource, and the Military and Family Life Counseling Program the panel said.

In addition to a number of resources mentioned, Sitterly encouraged the use of “touch points,” asking supervisors to engage more with their Airmen. Furthermore, Airmen are encouraged to connect with their peers and leadership to share their unique family needs.

“We are charged with looking at the policies and statutes that prevent our commanders from getting those families into those shoes that fit them well,” Sitterly explained.

While there are many programs out there, panel members want Airmen to speak up about what they need first...time with family.

“When I’ve asked my family what they remember about Air Force family support, they each mentioned different things – recreation, youth centers, child care access and more,” Sitterly said. “However, in the end, what my family told me was all of the programs were great, but they wanted to spend more time with Dad, me. When our Airmen are not deployed, every minute they can spend with families becomes quality time used to create positive memories.”

Panel members explained ways the Air Force remains focused on the well-being and care for each other and their families, particularly in the realm of family resiliency.

“We have lots and lots of opportunities for programs that work with resiliency,” Sitterly said. “But it goes back to those touch points with our Airmen. We don’t have enough opportunities for our Airmen to get together with their supervisors...and talk about their challenges.”

While there are a number of resources at Airmen’s disposal, the best programs are successful when first sergeants and first-line supervisors are engaged, he said.

“What are you doing to live an Air Force life,” asked Sitterly. “What are you doing to make sure your Airmen around you are resilient? This is about connecting people, helping them live an Air Force life. We just need to know what your challenges are. If you have a need and we don’t know, we can’t help you. Help us help you.”

For more information on family support programs, Airmen are encouraged to contact their local Airman and Family Readiness Center.

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